Russell Schmidt to be EC President following an appeal and investigation

Kassie Scott, Staff Writer

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Russell Schmidt was named Executive Committee President following an appeal of the Voting Regulations Board’s decision to invalidate the run-off election results.

This decision was made by the EC following the VRB’s investigation of reports concerning inappropriate campaigning.

“The EC found the accusations against the non-appealing candidate to be unfounded,” the EC and VRB said in a message released early Monday morning. “For the foregoing reasons, the results of the run-off election are reinstated, and Russell Schmidt’s election as Executive Committee President stands.”

After an appeal made by one candidate on the basis of inappropriate campaigning, “the VRB decided that the non-appealing candidate’s actions warranted invalidating the election results,” according to the message released by the EC and VRB.

The EC, however, did not agree.

“After a thorough and considered review of all relevant evidence and witness testimony, the EC has determined that the VRB’s decision to invalidate the results of the run-off election lacked a reasonable basis,” according to the message released to students.

EC 2015 Presidential hopefuls included Lauren Howard, Matt Kiser, Russell Schmidt and Bob Shinehouse.

Initially, Howard, Shinehouse and Schmidt were to be included in the second run-off election; however, a message quickly followed these results, stating that Shinehouse would be excluded from the race.  This decision came after an appeal was made to the Voting Regulations Board.

Though the Voting Regulations Board first thought it was reasonable to include Shinehouse in the run-off due to the Dark Horse Candidate Theory, the chairmen then decided it was unfair to the other candidates who were not expecting three candidates in the run-off, according to Nicole Simpson, ‘16, VRB Operations Chair.

Both the appeal and the decision stemmed from unclear run-off procedures, which are not specified in the VRB rules, according to Simpson.

“Ultimately, it is up to the VRB to decide what they want to do,” Simpson said.

The decision to exclude Shinehouse from the run-off left only Howard and Schmidt on the ballot.  Winning the run-off election by 68 votes, Schmidt was initially named EC President; however, another announcement followed that determined the results invalid.

“After receiving multiple reports of inappropriate campaigning by an EC Presidential Candidate and supporters, the VRB has found the election results reported this evening from the presidential run-off invalid,” Maggie Hammer, ’16, VRB PR Chair said in a message released to the student body early Thursday morning.

When investigating appeals made by members of the student body, “the VRB is the sole administrator and arbitrator of student elections,” according to article 1.1 of the Voting Regulation Board’s rules.

This year, the VRB adapted the rules to prevent unfair campaigning and to promote on-the-ground campaigning to ensure candidates were reaching out to students in person, according to Simpson.

To encourage on-the-ground campaigning, the VRB adapted rules regarding mass contact with the student body.

“A candidate may not use technology or social media including, but not limited to, imessaging and Facebook messaging, to mass contact a group of individuals that he or she does not know personally,” article 3.5.4 states.

While mass contact via technology and social media is prohibited, individual contact to familiar or unfamiliar students using these mediums is permitted.

“A candidate may use technology including, but not limited to, email, calling, texting, or Facebook messaging, to contact a familiar or unfamiliar student individually,” article 3.5.3 states.

The VRB encountered conflict because it was difficult to determine what defines a group of students that are familiar or unfamiliar, according to Simpson.

“We’re not trying to censor the information to make it so that the candidates have to scheme up ways in which they can contact the student body at large,” Simpson said.  “We were really trying to encourage personal and on-the-ground campaigning where the candidates would work hard to get to know all the different students …[in a way] that was accessible to everyone.”

There is much confusion surrounding not only the results of current elections but also the rules, according to the student body.

“[The students] don’t know the rules at all,” Mamie Smith, ‘18, said. “If [the VRB chairmen] are going to be really, really picky about the rules, they need to make them really, really well known.”

Simpson acknowledged that the rules are unclear.

“[The rules] are hazy in some parts in that they can be interpreted by the candidate, the student body, and the VRB potentially in different lights,” Simpson said.  “That was the issue we ran into this year, and it was a little late to change the rules once the campaigning process had started.”

For the upcoming election of EC and SJC representatives, Facebook pages are permitted, as well as e-mail and other forms of mass communication.  Depending on this election, the current VRB will work with the upcoming VRB to determine the role of mass communication in the future, according to Simpson.

“We realize that there are some things in the rules that can be improved,” Simpson said. “We are really trying our hardest to improve them currently.  Basically … we want … elections in the future [to] run as smoothly and fairly as possible.”

Both candidates were offered an interview with The Ring-tum Phi before the decision to reinstate the results was released.  But they could not comment while the investigation was ongoing, according to current EC President Lucy Wade Shapiro.

“While this VRB appeal is not an honor matter, the EC still abides by the Confidentiality & Harassment section in the White Book (page 4) saying that anyone involved will not unnecessarily disclose the nature of any testimony or the facts of this case,” Shapiro said in an email.